MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A 31-year-old nurse practitioner who worked at a wellness center in Coral Gables was arrested Tuesday for organized fraud after it was alleged that she led a scheme that defrauded one elderly woman out of $20,000 and another out of $22,000.
Paulette Cecilia Padilla of Miami was arrested this week on charges of fraud.
Investigators said an 86-year-old Chicago woman was told to wire $20,000 after a caller frantically told her that a family member had been involved in an accident. The fraud was brought to the attention of investigators at the end of January, when the wire payment sent to Padilla’s account was reported by family members of the woman, who explained the scheme.
A senior financial investigator with Bank of America called Padilla to inquire about the large deposit.
Padilla explained that the money had been sent to her by the woman, who was a friend, as payment for a Super Bowl party that Padilla was organizing. She said she was responsible for renting a house and entertainment for the weekend. When the investigator told her that the wire was “fraudulent,” she responded by saying, “How is that my problem?”
A subpoena for her Bank of America account number revealed that on Jan. 29, 2020, Padilla’s checking account had a balance of $1,778.17. Two days later, the $20,000 wire came in from a Fifth Third Bank customer. On the day the money was deposited, investigators said Padilla withdrew cash of $1,500 and the same amount the next day. On Feb. 3, she withdrew $10,000.
She also sent money through Zelle to her mother for $1,700 and two payments to an associate of $1,800 and $3,500, according to the investigator.
A photograph found on Padilla’s cellphone from Jan. 12, 2020, also showed a cash transaction sent to Padilla through the mail with a tracking number.
Miami-Dade Police Economic Crimes Bureau spoke with an elderly woman in New York who said she sent the money because she had been told a family member had been involved in an accident and she needed to send $22,000 to help them – it was the same scheme that was used to defraud the other woman out of $20,000.
Padilla was taken into custody for an unrelated narcotics arrest warrant and, at that time, was also charged in the fraud case.
The website from Nu You Wellness Center, where Padilla was employed, said that she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing from Barry University and started her career at Baptist Hospital as a registered nurse, where she worked in a medical/surgical unit for 8 years. She left there to become a nurse practitioner specializing in aesthetics and anti-aging medicine, such as Botox treatments, at Nu You.
Meanwhile, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office sent out a notice on Thursday alerting its residents of the same type of phone scams after they received two recent reports of calls stating that a family member was in trouble and needed money. The Sheriff’s Office said that the callers will say that a loved one has been arrested or was involved in a vehicle crash and may identify themselves as law enforcement.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said residents previously reported getting calls from someone posing as its sheriff Rick Ramsay.
Other related type scams include thieves who will say that there is an arrest warrant issued for missing jury duty or due to another other legal issue, and that the issue can be resolved paying a fee over the phone. Law enforcement advises anyone who gets a call that seems suspicious should immediately hang up.